9.31: Five months after the end of the Fifth Blight – Antiva City
“Is that him?”
The window they stared out was clouded with dirt from the busy plaza below. The sun had begun to set, casting shadow across the cobblestones and surrounding buildings. Still, Zevran nodded. He was certain he would recognize Eoman Arainai from a mile away.
He could feel Aurelia’s eyes upon him, knew that she was looking for some sort of reaction from him, but all he could do was follow the Grandmaster as he made his way down the street towards his mansion. Seeing his old mentor and home – if you could even call it that – again after over a year made Zevran’s stomach clench uncomfortably.
He had left Antiva in an attempt to escape this life, this man. Now here he was, right back where he had started. Nothing had changed, yet everything had changed. There was a murderous rage filling him, one that could not be rivaled by any of the assassinations that had come before this.
Eoman needed to die.
Aurelia’s hand gently rested on his knee and he finally looked up at her. Her large gray eyes looked at him with worry but also solidarity. He moved his own hand to her face and gently stroked her cheek. The bile that was forming in his mouth slowly receded as she smiled at him and his heart warmed.
He had known for some time that there was nothing in the world that he would not do for this woman. That he would burn down the entirety of Antiva City just to protect her. She had shown him the only tenderness he’d ever known, had shown him what it truly felt like to have a home, to have some possibility of a ‘normal life.’ But there would be no normal life for them, not if the Crows still hunted him.
“We should not do this now,” Zevran insisted as he turned to look back at the now empty street. “We have a boat to catch in the morning. We need to get you to back to Ferelden.”
His lover’s face darkened at his words. She still had yet to forgive the new king for cutting their travels short. The letter telling her of her new post as Warden-Commander had reached them just as they were about to depart Seheron and anytime Zevran had mentioned it since, Aurelia’s teeth gritted in anger.
“To the Black God with Ferelden,” Aurelia cursed. “I will not leave this city until that man is dead.”
Mac let out a small bark of agreement and Zevran sighed.
They had been casing House Arainai for nearly two weeks now. They knew the number of Crows inside, the number who watched the gates, the number who patrolled the streets and roof tops surrounding. Still the thought of putting this woman, his love, in danger made anxiety gnaw at his insides. Would it not be best to wait until she was safely deposited at Vigil’s Keep before he took action?
“Zev,” Aurelia insisted, not finishing her words until he met her eyes once more. “We finish this tonight.”
“Will someone find that damned dog already and kill it!”
The incessant barking was grating on Eoman’s nerves as he sat at the desk in his study, going over today’s correspondence. He could barely focus on the updates of new recruits with the infernal racket from the street below.
“We’ve tried, sir,” a young Crow said from the doorway, her hands wringing with nervousness as she addressed the Grandmaster. “Every time we seem to get close, it runs.”
“How many damn assassins does it take to kill a dog?” Eoman responded through gritted teeth. “If you don’t shut that thing up in the next hour, I’ll have you all sent to Velabanchel!”
The green Crow scurried away, once more leaving his doorway dark. Eoman looked back down at the letters before him, letting out a long sigh.
Everything was quiet for a few moments, except for the barking that continued below. However, Eoman saw a new figure in his doorway from the corner of his eye.
“I warned you—” he growled, but as he turned his head to look up, a knife flew past his cheek. He could feel his hair flutter from the sudden attack and there was a loud thud as the blade sunk into the wooden paneling.
The dark clad figure rushed at him just as he stood from his chair and pulled his own blade from under the desktop. He raised his arm just in time as a short sword fell upon him.
“Who sent you?” he gasped as pushed the would-be assassin from him and retreated to the door. Into the hallway he yelled, “I need assistance!”
The attacker brought their sword down upon him again and Eoman blocked the move with his own blade. His hand gripped the arm of the hooded intruder, trying to get a good look at their face. His first instinct was to blame that damned blonde elf who’d disappeared in Ferelden, but no. This person was too tall. Whoever it was, their face was half obscured by the shadow of their hood and a leather mask that covered their face from their nose down. All he could make out was a pair of bright, grey eyes that crinkled at the corners.
As heavy footsteps came closer, the attacker ripped their arm free of Eoman’s grasp and ran towards the closed window. Just as back up arrived behind him, Eoman watched with annoyance as the invader crashed through the window – glass and wood splintering to the floor – and landed with a roll on the lower rooftop on the building next door.
“What are you waiting for?” he screamed as assassins behind him paused to watch as the person now scrambled across the tile roof and leapt to the adjuring building. “Follow him! Before he gets away!”
One by one, the rest of the Crows sprang through the window to give chase. Eoman’s eyes settled upon the knife that still swayed from the hole it had left in the wooden paneling. He wrenched it from the wall and stared down at it. It was an expensive blade, well crafted and made of fine materials. The grip was made of spiraling, carved bone. He tilted it towards him, narrowing his eyes at the two laurel leaves that were carved into the pommel.
The door closed with a snap behind him. As Eoman turned, he could hear the lock engage. His heart stopped as he turned and realized with embarrassment: this had all been a set up.
Yet another dark clad figure stood between him and escape. This time he had no question of who it was as the man pulled the hood back from his face.
“You,” Eoman snarled as he held the first attacker’s knife in one hand and his own in the other. “You will not leave House Arainai alive again.”
Even as he spoke, however, Eoman’s vision began to blur and he could feel the muscles in his arms and legs begin to shake. As he moved to step towards Zevran, his hands gave out and the daggers fell to the floor with a clang. His knees hit the floor next as his fingers clenched weakly, trying to reach out and grasp the knives once more. Instead, his hands felt the cold stone floor and he had to fight keep from falling flat against it.
“Not bad for an assassin who never made master, no?” Zevran’s arrogant drawl made Eoman growl, even as it became hard to take breaths. “Though, I did have some help.”
“Yes, yes. I will not leave here alive. You’ve already said,” Zevran went on as he kneeled in front of Eoman. He took the offending blade into his gloved hand examined the grip. “Smart idea, yes? I thought to poison the blade itself, but poisoning the grip?” He made a small clicking sound with his tongue as he smiled maliciously at his former master. “Now that was brilliant. I’m sure even you can appreciate that.”
Eoman’s voice came in short, weak bursts. “I should have killed you after I had you kill that elf bitch. When you were no longer use—"
A gasp left him as he felt cold steel enter his chest. Looking up through clouded eyes, he saw the smile had left Zevran’s face. His eyes were serious and set.
“Blood will flow through the halls of House Arainai,” Zevran said through gritted teeth. “I will make a pile of ash and corpses out of everything you have worked to achieve. I promise you.”
The dagger left his chest as everything went dark and he fell to the floor. Beyond the sound of his heart beating it’s last, he could here lithe footsteps move towards the broken window.
Then he was gone.
9:31 – Six months after the end of the Fifth Blight – Highever
“You have his feeding schedule?”
“Yes,” Zevran said with a sigh. “You have your health potions?”
“Yes. You have his spare collar?”
Clucking with exasperation, Zevran set down his pack and gripped Aurelia’s arms.
“Everything will be fine. Mac and I will get along just fine in Antiva, won’t we?” Zevran looked to the mabari who sat sullenly at his mistress’s feet, but he did give a small yip of assurance as he butted his head against Aurelia’s thigh.
Aurelia still felt dejected as they stood on the dock. Her eyes were cast downward and she could feel tears threatening to fall. If she cried, she was scared he would be able to leave her. It had been her who had insisted he return with her loyal dog to Antiva, but she still felt so terribly sad at the idea of losing them both, it made her heart ache.
Suddenly, her arms were around him and her face was buried in his neck.
“I’m going to miss you,” she whispered, her voice muffled by his cloak.
He wrapped his arms around her and held her close, his hand soothing her hair. She did her best to memorize every part of this moment. The way their bodies felt, pressed together, the smell of his polished leather armor, the sound of his voice.
“It will not be for long, my love,” he assured her, his voice tender. “You need just to whip the new recruits into shape and you will be back by my side in no time.”
The captain yelled for last call and Aurelia reluctantly pulled away from him, but her hand rested against his cheek as she stared into his face one last time.
“I love you,” she said, her grey eyes moist.
Zevran kissed her, his fingers gripping her neck with a fierceness she had not felt since they’d said goodbye before the battle of Denerim. The captain yelled once more and Zevran pulled away, picking up his bag and turning from her.
“Come, Mac,” he said.
“You’d better write!” she reminded him as he made his way down the gangway.
When he finally made it onto the deck, he positioned himself beside the railing and forced himself to smile at her.
“Do not have too many adventures without me,” he called back.
She forced herself to smile back, but as the ship got further and further away, the tears finally came. So many what ifs were running through her mind. What if something happened to one of them while they were apart? What if he forgot about her? What if he took another lover?
This was the first time they had parted for such an extended time since they had met. When she’d first laid eyes upon him, she could barely think about the future if it did not involve darkspawn or finding Howe. The rest of life seemed pointless. Now, she desired more than anything to have him in her future. Nothing else – not even helping the Grey Wardens rebuild – seemed of much importance.